ICELAND SMALL SHIP FIRST TIME

ICELAND, OUR FIRST SMALL SHIP ADVENTURE, FACTS
we are veteran Tauck land customers. We have taken the Galapagos trip twice, but that is an expedition boat. We have not taken a river cruise yet.
We just returned from the Iceland Small ship tour on the brand new Le Laperouse, it was the second tour and in fact the ship had it’s official naming ceremony the day we boarded the ship.
We arrived a day early on Iceland Air, it landed about 7am, but we were able to check into our room on arrival at the hotel. The airport is about an hour drive from downtown Reykjavik. We stayed at the Tauck booked Hilton Nordica hotel, apparently half the group stayed at the Grand hotel nearby, but both hotels were not near the town. We walk very fast but it still took us a good 25 to 30 minutes to walk into the center and that’s a long time when you have flown overnight and are walking in cold windy weather. So our main criteria for a good Tauck hotel is location, location, so not so good. For those who care, the bathroom was smaller than the one on the ship.
We were in cabin 507, just opposite an elevator, it was fine, no elevator noise and quite handy to be near when the ship was on rough waters and the stairs tricky. The ship is very nice. We were a little disappointed in how small the bathroom was, but it did have a huge drawer under the sink, the shower was good and plenty of instant hot water, we could just not be in the bathroom together. There was a good hairdryer. The room had plenty of electrical outlets and USB outlets. Plenty of storage there. Coffee and tea facilities in the room. We were told laundry service would take 48 to 72 hours to be returned, we did not try it. I tried washing a piece of underwear and a pair of socks the first night and it took forever to dry.
The French style food cuisine was wonderful. I never want to see food again for a few days. There was a signature cocktail every night to try. Breakfast and lunch were buffet style, dinner was full service. There were some interesting vegetarian dishes and i saw gluten free bread too.
All the crew were wonderful and friendly but Mr B would want me to mention that more than a couple of the crew had pretty bad body odor problems, he meant to put it on our survey but he forgot.
There were somewhere between 165 and 180 guests on board, I heard both numbers from the tour directors, but all were Tauck guests.
This tour had the new Tauck ‘Choices’ for some of the tour days, we knew about the choices and had made them ahead of time as directed from the Tauck emails we were sent. But there was major confusion that we have never encountered with Tauck before, first, they canceled our booking in error when our friends canceled a couple of months ago. We all booked the tour as soon as we were notified about it opening up about 18 months ago. Tauck joined our booking which Mr B and I did not want, as our friends often cancel things, but. Tauck insisted our bookings were still separate, but clearly they were not and the first thing we knew was an email from Tauck saying so sorry we had canceled. If we had not gotten straight on the phone, I guess our booking would have been lost as the tour was sold out by that time. It was reinstated.
We knew we had choices on our tours and had researched and were ready to pick them, but when we got the green booklet on final payment it looked as if all the tours were included as in the past. Then a couple of weeks before we went, we received a letter from Tauck to say they had sent everyone last year’s tour book in error. By this time I had dismissed all our research and we had to start all over. So when we got on the ship, some people had not had the ‘Choice’ email,
Some people had no idea there were choices. We had an explanation and those who had not chosen anything were urged to make the choices so the correct buses and so on could be in place ASAP, but still people did not do that and there was confusion for the first couple of days.
We had four Tauck tour directors and one Cruise director, they were all excellent and friendly and we had taken a tour with one of them at least twelve or so years ago.
Whenever the tour days included everyone doing the same tour, we had four buses that were staggered maybe leaving every ten minutes or so. There was no seat assignment as we are used to on land tours and like. On the choices days I must admit that would be difficult. The tour directors said if the same people kept grabbing the front seats, others would notice. That was not the case, every time we got on the bus with one group of four, they were always in the front seats, we found that so annoying, but who would dare to rock the boat and say something. I don’t want to be at the front of the bus, but i would have liked my turn at least once on the tour, it never happened.
There was entertainment on the ship that began at 9-15pm every night, four excellent dancers, one who was the singer, she was very good. The shows varied in length from around maybe twenty minutes to an hour with lots of costume changes done very well. One night we had a fabulous classical
Pianist who played on the brand new Steinway. I think three of the nights there was dancing in the bar area, we danced until maybe 11pm on two of those, we generally went to bed much later than we anticipated we would. There was a singer and guitar player/pianist in the bar each night too.
The weather this year in Iceland is apparently the worst summer in 100 years as far as the amount of rain goes. We had two rain days but fortunately the days you would want to have sunshine, we did, but as always in Iceland at this time, it was cold and windy, I think I wore more layers than I do in a NE USA winter, usually when Tauck says layers, I need one less than most people, so you get the picture. My tip here would be to wear layers that have either zippers or buttons at the front rather than things that you need to pull over your head since you will have hat, listening device, camera etc to negotiate and you are constantly removing or adding layers as you move in and out of wind, sun or buildings or the bus.
There were lectures and the Tauck BBC movies. We enjoyed the latter, partly because on other tours the directors have had difficulties with equipment not working to show the movie or when there has been photo equipment etc they did not know how to use it properly. We enjoyed a tap dancing lesson too.
The itinerary got switched around on several days because of weather. The best day was when we had to go to Grimsey in the afternoon instead of the morning, but as a consequence we found ourselves in the middle of a pod of about fifty Killer Whales and watched them for a long time.
On the first night, we were thrilled to be invited to the Captain’s table for the Gala dinner. There was the Captain and his wife who was visiting, a French couple, the husband worked for Ponant, Us, anther couple and a single lady. We had the advantage of enjoying superior wines but of course wonderful conversation with the Captain. We Tauckers pretty soon realized we had done many trips with Tauck which I guess is why we were chosen, thanks Tauck!
A Small ship tour was a very different Tauck experience for us. I would say you need about half the stamina you require to do a land tour, mainly because the day starts so much later. At this point we still feel fit enough to do land tours and prefer them. While the Iceland tour is not a good example, on a river tour say, you definitely cannot get to see as much as a land tour equivalent and you can’t get to know other people as well or have the same close relationships with the tour director, that big group is just too big to form a Tauck tribe that one usually belongs to by the end of a tour.
Ok so all the laundry is done, time for lunch. If I can answer any questions feel
free to reply.

Comments

  • British - would you please go back, edit your post, and add a line space between each paragraph? It would be much easier reading. TIA.
  • It’s not my style. I will add more info later.
  • Dear British and Mr. B. Is this trip OK for those who don’t have good sea legs? Rockin’ and rollin’ on the sea is not in my DNA. Thanks for the review.
  • edited July 2018
    AshvEd wrote:
    Dear British and Mr. B. Is this trip OK for those who don’t have good sea legs? Rockin’ and rollin’ on the sea is not in my DNA. Thanks for the review.

    The first night, we were indeed rockin and rollin, the ship was swaying from side to side and up and down, I am sure I lifted off the bed and back down on it several times. It was not pleasant but we were Ok. There were not many people at breakfast that day and I understand there was sea sickness. Another night was a little rough, otherwise the ship was smooth sailing at night but some rockiness during the days following the rough nights.
    Some more info. On this tour, the Gala dinner on the first night, I only saw one man in a sports coat, there could have been more but not many. The dress was very casual. All other nights people dressed down. Then, on the last night, when we were told there was no need to dress up for the farewell dinner, more people dressed up than we had seen all week and a couple of men wore suits which looked really odd.
    The Blue Lagoon.——I don’t think I was the only woman who was concerned about the logistics of going to the Blue Lagoon and then straight on to the airport to return home. Some people were staying in an hotel for an extra night so they had no worries. It was Ok, we had plastic bags to put our wet swimsuits in and there were hairdryers so it was not too bad. We really loved the experience and could have lounged in the pool all day. You have to be aware that you must strip down naked in front of everyone else and shower before you go in the pool, if you do not, the sttemdadmts shout st you. Note, it is strongly advisable not to wear ANY jewelery in the lagoon, it is safest on the locked bus. Both of us had trouble getting the provided lockers staying locked shut with the fancy electronic wristbands.
  • Thanks British. No small ship trip for us. We are hoping that Tauck will do a land based tour of Iceland similar to what A&K does.
  • edited July 2018
    You know, we loved the tour, but if you don’t mind missing some of the remote bits, there is plenty to see and wow you fairly near Reykjavik, so you could go there yourselves. I understand most hotels will organize tours for you. It’s safe, they speak English. It is expensive, but if you know that you can eat and drink wisely and skip the $90 bobble hat. I believe a taxi from the airport is $180 but there are shuttles etc, but Uber is forebidden
    You might have a totally calm sea if you do the tour, but of course you never know.

    SORRY, JUST EDITED MY RRESPOMSE ABOVE, I CLEARLY DID NOT SPELL, CHECK
  • First of all, thank you British for your detailed review, including your experience on the boat and sea. :-). I get seasick too ever since I had a nice 19 day tour of Scandinavia back in the early 1980s with Maupintour (no longer around), which was all land based (Denmark/Norway/Sweden/Finland) except for an overnight ship cruise from Sweden to Finland in the Baltic in October; so it is nice to know. It sort of sounds like the Antartica tour and the Drake Passage, i.e. 50/50 of whether it will be calm or rough waters to and from it; one never knows for sure. :-). BTW, I have been on 3 riverboat cruise tours/trips with Tauck and another with a different company. They were all excellent IMHO. So it is river boat cruising as my choice in the future. :-)
  • British wrote:
    It’s not my style.
    Yeah,properlyspacingparagraphsisalottoask.GuessIwon'treaditthen.Notmystyle.
  • Hmmm...will not respond to BKMD post..not sure whether you are being humorous or otherwise...
    (note, new paragraph, although not skipped line) Thank you, British, for a very thorough review. I was wondering how you, a "land tour" devotee, would adapt to a small ship cruise, and especially a newer, few-tested one. Apparently, as it is with most Tauck veterans, you found some wonderful experiences. Iceland is not in my immediate line of vision (although, I did say that about India, and that turned out to be a #2 favorite...go figure). I checked out your last day on the listed itinerary after your post and found it to be the most unusual last day ever. Go soak, change, farewell gathering and fly home... were you being kind, or was that not as big a deal as I imagined??
  • edited July 2018
    Joyce, the last two days were very full compared to the rest of the tour. We basically only had a half day of site seeing apart from that, although there were some activities on the boat. That’s why I prefer the land tours, you just do and see more, even if you are going from one destination to another, just looking out of the window can be fascinating. I can see the appeal once one gets fed up of hotel changing and unpacking and repacking. By the way, I think it might have been you who tempted me to try packing cubes and we used that method the past couple of trips. Mr B is a strong convert. But he just informed me today he has mislaid his dental retainers, ie they are probably on the ship.


  • Bristish, thank you much for that detailed review. This is also our first small ship cruise with Tauck. We did Alaska with NatGeo but it was a 62 passenger ship. Like you, we like the fast paced land cruises but are looking forward to something new. We are in Cabin 509 so you have given a good description of the room.
    I have a huge concern about the choices of activities and am unclear how they are booked. We are leaving on July 29th (Sunday after next) and have received no info from my travel agent or Tauck regarding choices. I'm also used to, like yourself, assigned seating on the bus. I guess this trip will be a bit of a "new normal" with more people to move around and hoping we can all be big kids and rotate seating.
    We are arriving a day early. I am assuming like other trips we have taken we are met at the airport by Tauck and transported to our hotel, which in our case is the Hilton.
    I'll be checking this thread regularly for more info.
  • British, your report was SO helpful. Thank you so much for your time and efforts.
    It seems the weather is improving and we hope it lasts. This is our 3rd Tauck Trip and we have enjoyed all of them. It has taken a while to get on this trip, but excited about the new ship.

    Damos, we reserved our 3 shore options several months ago. Our travel agent sent our choices to us. We have received our final papers and instructions, including our tour choices. We are on the July 31 departure also. We are staying at the Hilton and arriving a day early and leaving a day late on the departure. We are in Cabin 607.
    I think I would contact Tauck and see if the papers have been generated.

    We prefer the rotating seat assignments also. Thinking about it, we used that system in Morocco but not with Rhine River cruise tours. Guess it depends on the individual tour.

    Thank you again British! Any additional thoughts are always welcomed.

    Susan
  • edited July 2018
    SDamos wrote:
    Bristish, thank you much for that detailed review. This is also our first small ship cruise with Tauck. We did Alaska with NatGeo but it was a 62 passenger ship. Like you, we like the fast paced land cruises but are looking forward to something new. We are in Cabin 509 so you have given a good description of the room.
    I have a huge concern about the choices of activities and am unclear how they are booked. We are leaving on July 29th (Sunday after next) and have received no info from my travel agent or Tauck regarding choices. I'm also used to, like yourself, assigned seating on the bus. I guess this trip will be a bit of a "new normal" with more people to move around and hoping we can all be big kids and rotate seating.
    We are arriving a day early. I am assuming like other trips we have taken we are met at the airport by Tauck and transported to our hotel, which in our case is the Hilton.
    I'll be checking this thread regularly for more info.

    Hi Damos, if you still haven’t heard from Tauck, even if you did book with an agent, I would still try calling Tauck, be ready to give them your Tauck booking number, I hope that is sufficient, they are usually helpful, though we do not need to call them much between bookings. We always book directly with them. Hopefully they will email you your choices. The only tour that appeared to get any negatives was the one that included seeing the Icelandic foxes, I think there was just one or two in a cage.
    Providing you supplied Tauck with your flight details at least three weeks before the start of the tour, you should see a TAuck agent once you clear customs with your bags. There was a line of Tauck agents when we arrived a day early, we shared a ride with another couple, I think some travelled alone. Be prepared for about an hour into Reykjavik.
    Once we checked in, we ate breakfast, included, and then headed in to town, walking briskly about a half hour. The shopping area is unimpressive and very expensive. We ate a wonderful bowl of fish soup and great bread at Sea Baron B A R O N at the harbor, recommended by my friend in England and the hotel staff, you walk in, it’s rustic, communal tables made of cut tree lengths and small barrels to sit on with padding. If the front area is full, there is more seating to the left of the counter.
    We went in the famous church and went up the tower, $10, but the view was misty because of weather, plus it was very windy up there, cold and raining, no rain at ground level. There is an elevator but you still have to walk up I think three shortish flights of stairs, there is no time to visit the tower on the included Tauck visit. We also went into the Saga museum which was fun. It was a lot of walking. We wanted to go to another place, forget the name which had some sort of wildlife exhibit, it was in a large domed building but it looked very far from us when we were in the tower. If you are interested, the guy at the Hilton desk was very helpful whenever we checked in and gives you an annotated map. We decided to buy a sandwich and fruit from a supermarket on the way back, we were too tired to be thinking about changing for dinner so I can’t comment on dinner at the hotel or anywhere else. When we went to our exercise class yesterday and were lifting dumbbells, I thought all I used my left arm for all trip was a wine glass and my right eating ????????????.
  • edited July 2018
    I liked the rotating seat assignments on our 2 land tours (especially Ireland where there was so much scenery) in part because you get a chance to chat with the TD. But on river cruises where they don't do that I never bother trying to get to the front. Since they always take place in Europe with right hand drive, the bus drivers open the front and back doors of the bus. The line getting on is always longer and slower at the front entrance so we head for the back. It's usually faster getting off as well. Can't say I've ever felt like I didn't get a good view.
  • Take care of that arm British! You got the right idea!
  • edited July 2018
    SDamos wrote:
    British, thank you much for that detailed review. . . .
    I have a huge concern about the choices of activities and am unclear how they are booked. We are leaving on July 29th (Sunday after next) and have received no info from my travel agent or Tauck regarding choices. . . .
    We are arriving a day early. I am assuming like other trips we have taken we are met at the airport by Tauck and transported to our hotel, which in our case is the Hilton.
    I'll be checking this thread regularly for more info.

    You wouldn't be the first traveler who has not received proper services from a travel agent!!! If the Iceland trip is anything like Tauck river cruises, about 60 days before departure you should have received an email outlining the excursion options and giving you a deadline to respond with your choices. Additionally, within a week or so of making final payment, normally 60 days prior but for cruises- this cruise- 90 days prior to departure, you should have received Tauck's "green book" that contains details of your contract- passengers, cabin, insurance, pre/post-trip Tauck-arranged lodging, etc., etc. and tons of other important and useful info. Included are answers to you questions including about airport pickup, etc. It will also contain special luggage tags.

    When you book through a travel agent all that stuff, including emails is sent to them, but the TA should have forwarded it to you immediately (via email or mail). Someone dropped the ball here, and I suspect it was your travel agent!! Also, if you didn't book your flights through Tauck and haven't provided airline flight # and arrival and departure info (on the website in "My Reservations") you must call Tauck to give them this info to ensure you will be picked up. It is too late to do it on the website. Call your travel agent and Tauck immediately!!
  • AlanS wrote:
    You wouldn't be the first traveler who has not received proper services from a travel agent!!! If the Iceland trip is anything like Tauck river cruises, about 60 days before departure you should have received an email outlining the excursion options and giving you a deadline to respond with your choices. Additionally, within a week or so of making final payment, normally 60 days prior but for cruises- this cruise- 90 days prior to departure, you should have received Tauck's "green book" that contains details of your contract- passengers, cabin, insurance, pre/post-trip Tauck-arranged lodging, etc., etc. and tons of other important and useful info. Included are answers to you questions including about airport pickup, etc. It will also contain special luggage tags.

    When you book through a travel agent all that stuff, including emails is sent to them and the TA should have forwarded (or mailed) it to you immediately. Someone dropped the ball here, and I suspect it was your travel agent!! Also, if you didn't book your flights through Tauck and haven't provided airline flight # and arrival and departure info (on the website in "My Reservations") you must call Tauck to give them this info to ensure you will be picked up. It is too late to do it on the website. Call your travel agent and Tauck immediately!!

    Alan, I think you are quite correct. We have booked with TA's because at one time there were financial incentives but they are minimal now. My husband last night said we should just book through Tauck from now on. I agree that our TA dropped the ball. She did email me what I was assigned however. Thanks for the advice.

    British, here is what they have given us:
    Day 2 Snafefellness Touring
    Day 4 Leisurely Akueyri and Godafoss
    Day 5 Life and Culture in Isafjordur
    Day 8 Krasavik and Blue Lagoon

    I am keen on Blue Lagoon, we are staying an extra day in Reykjavik anyway. I like action, so the leisurely description doesn't work for me, lol. I will call Tauck direct and try to get some advice. TA said we can change when we get there but I'd like to have it set up beforehand. Any input on the Days 2, 4 and 5 activities?

    This is first issue we have ever had with a Tauck trip. TA booked travel through Tauck and it is in my trip info.Thanks for all the advice.
  • I realize I have not been asked, but we are on the same 29 July sailing. Coming in a day early and leaving a day later.

    We have an excellent travel agent, plus I was in the travel business for 25 years.

    For the transfers to be confirmed, Tuack must have copies of your flight schedules, both arrival and departure. Ours are on Iceland Air from MSP.
    This would be printed on your online Tauck confirmations. In the green Tauck booklet, your 3 "personal pick tours" are printed.
    Reading all I have read, these tours fill up and since Iceland is so costly, changing tours can sometimes be impossible.

    The airport is an hour drive and costly also, if a taxi is used. There is a shuttle bus, if necessary.

    It is a good idea to call Tauck and review what they have for you. There may be time to fill in the questions, if necessary.
  • queenie1 wrote:
    I realize I have not been asked, but we are on the same 29 July sailing. Coming in a day early and leaving a day later.

    We have an excellent travel agent, plus I was in the travel business for 25 years.

    For the transfers to be confirmed, Tuack must have copies of your flight schedules, both arrival and departure. Ours are on Iceland Air from MSP.
    This would be printed on your online Tauck confirmations. In the green Tauck booklet, your 3 "personal pick tours" are printed.
    Reading all I have read, these tours fill up and since Iceland is so costly, changing tours can sometimes be impossible.

    The airport is an hour drive and costly also, if a taxi is used. There is a shuttle bus, if necessary.

    It is a good idea to call Tauck and review what they have for you. There may be time to fill in the questions, if necessary.

    Thanks Queenie! Glad you jumped right in. Just got off phone with Tauck and the rep emailed me the choices. While they could not change them this close to departure, she said she did flag it to Tour Director that we would want to make a few changes. I told her that it seemed on the message boards not all were getting the info for trip choices and she will send that information on to customer relations.

    We are taking the flight from MSP that arrives at 9:10am July 30. My trip info was all in line when I spoke to Tauck customer service. Looks like we are now all in order.
    So we will meet on trip!
  • Good news. This should be a reassuring step to help you enjoy the trip.

    Look forward to meeting you.

    Susan
  • SDamos, those are the exact tours that we took.
    Regarding issues withTauck, this is the only tour we have taken with them that appears to have so many communication issues. In the past, on other tours, any issues that people have mentioned here on the forum about not getting info etc has always been when people have used a Travel agent. We are aware there were some insentives using an agent, but for us it is such a disadvantage using an agent, they become the people you have the contract with and not Tauck.
    We continue to have confidence with Tauck and still have six more tours booked with them taking us to the end of 2019. We have some wonderful memories from all their tours we have taken.
  • Hi British, First off thank you so much for your review, Good job.
    And thank you to everyone else who have asked good questions and added more information.

    I was wondering about the adult beverages. I read somewhere that beer/wine were included with dinner and there is a
    nightly cocktail hour. Can you tell me if they are included?

    I love small ships so I'm looking forward to our trip this week. We are on the July 31st sailing. We are coming in one day early and staying 3 days longer and have booked a few local tours.

    Thanks again for your great review.




  • All alcohol is Included any time of the day apart from a few Top Shelf items.
  • Thank you British.

    I'm so looking forward to this and I'm packing now. We've taken Tauck's river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam and it was the best thing we'd ever done. Lots of walking and site seeing everyday and a fun group travelers. Our ship had 70 passengers, 2 guides and one cruise director.

    We've taken several Tauck trips and I really just don't know what to do next, they all have been great so far. Any advise?

  • edited July 2018
    Well Mona, what are your likes and interests?
    Do you want to see all seven continents?
    How fit are you? Do you have plenty of money?
    Are you retired or restricted in vacation time?
    We have traveled pretty extensively from a young adult age, in fact Mr B travelled more than me as a child with his parents to many places in Europe and as an adult for business. And of course we do not live in the country we were born in.
    So our travel plan may be different than yours.
    We decided we wanted to do the more ‘Challenging’ tours first, like those with tough itineraries either physically or mentally or those that have very long tedious flights or those destinations that are very remote. We are still working oir way through these. Plus, we have favorites and have no qualms about visiting the same place more than once. In that respect we do not have the kind of ‘ bucket list’ that some people have.
    We like Europe, but it is not our priority at this point, though we do visit those countries, it is not as exciting for us.
    We love seeing wildlife so that features heavily in our travel.
    My favorite countries, all the sub Saharan African countries we have vsited and Japan.
    Will gladly answer any questions I can help you with.
  • We will be staying over after our Iceland tour for 2 days. Any suggestions for things to do?

  • We were in Iceland in 2016 and planned to arrive a day early. We booked a small group tour with Nature Explorer for our free day - they offer several options. Unfortunately our plane was delayed 24 hours and we missed our tour with them so I can't speak to it personally, but their on-line reviews are excellent. You might want to check them out. You will probably see the Hallgrímskirkja Lutheran Church with Tauck. We visited this on our own as well. You can take an elevator to a viewing platform for a nice views of Reykjavik.

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